By WCA Senior Consultant Marija Vujcic

Marija Vujcic

I still get excited when resource projects get the green light. The construction phase gets squeezed into a few short years of intense activity.  The new resource projects generate huge benefits for business with increased jobs and services.  Everyone in our community directly or indirectly benefits and the local economy gets a boost.

Managing employees and contractors on these projects was always a tricky business for me as the Employee Relations Manager. There was no shortage of people telling me how to do my job. Managing the various stakeholders was challenging and I could not have done it effectively without an employee relations strategy (ERS). My ERS was both strategic and a practical tool in managing issues in the workplace with four key aspects. 

  1. The how to manage employees and stakeholders was clearly stated in our Agreement;
  2. The what tools, processes and resources were identified;
  3. The when interaction and engagement with stakeholders was sorted; and
  4. The why related to monitoring, reporting and reviewing the employee relations activities across time.

Here is what a robust ERS will deliver for a project or a workplace.

  1.  Productivity – strong employee relations creates a level of happiness within a work environment. When employees know what is expected from them, are fairly remunerated and praised with regular feedback, morale builds and so does employee motivation and desire to be productive.
  2. Employee Loyalty – a work environment that is productive and pleasant provides a powerful incentive for employees to be loyal to their employer.  Having such a workforce improves employee retention and the costs associated with recruitment and selection.  In the long term a low employee turnover ensures that the business has access to a trained and skilled pool of employees.
  3. Conflict Reduction – a work environment that is friendly and efficient is less likely to have employees engage in conflict.  Less conflict results in the employees being able to concentrate on their job and their productivity.  A happy workforce is a productive workforce.

Employee relations can make or break a workplace.  Your success depends heavily on the productivity and engagement of your employees. When everyone is engaged, it infuses everything you do with purpose, energy and enthusiasm. When preparing to tender for a parcel of work on a resource project, my manager would ask me the question; “How good is our employee relations strategy?”

Marija Vujcic is an Employee Relations Specialist with WCA Solutions.  Contact WCA – People & Culture Solutions if you require any assistance with your Culture, Human Resources and/or Industrial Relations requirements on (08) 9383 3293 or admin@wcasolutions.com

Are you across changes to personal and carers leave?

In the months following the Mondelez v AMWU case, which resulted in significant changes to personal and carer’s leave, many businesses have been left feeling confused and uncertain about how personal and carer’s leave is calculated.

Fundamentally, the changes handed down in late August 2019 by The Federal Court of Australia see full-time and part-time employees expressly accruing leave in working days.  

The Fair Work Act states that an employee is entitled to 10 days of personal and carer’s leave for each year of service with the employer. However, practically many businesses accrue personal and carer’s leave in hours i.e. 76 hours per annum for full-time employees working 38 hours per week, with part-time employees receiving the same entitlement on a pro-rata basis, based on hours worked.

The interpretation of the ruling by the Fair Work Commission indicates the changes to personal and carer’s leave do not significantly affect full-time employees working a standard working week. However, if we look at employees working different part-time or non-standard working arrangements, we can start to see how the recent ruling may be interpreted to provide quite different entitlements for these employees.

Practical examples

Ben, Grace, April and John all work for ABC Accounting & Finance who pride themselves on being a flexible employer:

  • Ben requested flexibility to do school pick up and drop off and therefore, works 5-hours a day, Monday to Friday;
  • Grace is a junior employee who works 7.6 hours, 4 days a week while she finishes her post-graduate degree;
  • April is an Account Manager working with a large number of overseas clients and works a compressed workweek of 9.5 hours a day over 4 days so that she can do early and late meetings; and
  • John, a Senior Accountant, works a standard workweek.

As you can see from the comparison of calculation methods above, the changes introduced by The Federal Court favour those who work long hours over fewer days. Based on the new calculation method in some cases part-time employees accrue less hours of personal and carer’s leave.

Employee Based on hours worked (old method) Based on 10 working days (new method)
Ben 10 days based on 25 hrs/wk (50 hrs) 10 days of 5 hrs (50 hrs)
Grace 10 days based on 30.4 hrs/wk  (60.8 hrs) 10 days of 7.6 hrs  (76 hrs)
April 10 days for a full-time employee working 38 hrs/wk (76 hrs) 10 days of 9.5 hrs (95 hrs)
John 10 days for a full-time employee working 38 hrs/ wk (76 hrs) 10 days of 7.6 hours (76 hrs)

The Federal Court stated the intention of the ruling was to guarantee all employees are provided with an equal number of days off. However, this has come at a significant cost, with the Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations Christian Porter estimating that the additional cost to businesses could be up to $2 billion per year.  

It should be further noted that if this interpretation is upheld, many businesses will face additional upheaval and potential expense in changing payroll systems to accrue hours rather than days.

What is next?

On Monday 16 September 2019, the Morrison Government announced it would seek to appeal the recent Federal Court decision and address the inequities created from this change.  

Mondelez has also announced it intends to lodge their own appeal.

Contact WCA- People & Culture Solutions if you require assistance with Human Resources and Industrial Relations on (08) 9383 3293 or email admin@wcasolutions.com

Australian Industrial Relations legislation has provided casual employees with a 25% casual loading  to compensate for paid sick and annual leave, redundancy and other entitlements, but this has now been challenged by an unprecedented Federal Court decision, followed by updates to all Modern Awards.

In WorkPac Pty Ltd v Skene the court clarified there was no uncertainty or irregularity in the patterns of work Mr Skene was performing, as he had received a roster that outlined his next 52 weeks’ worth of work. As a result Mr Skene was awarded all benefits a permanent employee would receive, due to the regular nature of his work and predictable work hours.

With approximately 25% of Australia’s workforce comprising of casual employees and the outcome of this case in the forefront of many employer’s minds, questions begin to arise around the validity of each casual’s employment and the additional entitlements they may be due.

Who is a “valid” casual?

Unfortunately, despite the legislation surrounding an employment relationship, there is no one-size-fits-all definition of a casual employee.

The Fair Work Commission defines a casual employee as “not having a firm commitment in advance from an employer about how long they will be employed for, or the days (or hours) they will work”.  However, industry definitions of casual employment have morphed from the original intent of a casual employee into something significantly different. If we were to take a cross-section across all industries, it would not come as a surprise to find casual employees working the equivalent of full-time hours with the expectation their employment will continue for the foreseeable future.

Though specific details need to be considered on a case-by-case basis, generally, casual employees:

  • Have no guaranteed hours of work;
  • Usually work irregular hours;
  • Aren’t entitled to paid sick or annual leave; and
  • Can end employment without notice, unless required by a registered agreement, Award or employment contract.

What does this mean for your business?

From 1 October 2018, all Modern Awards contain a clause for casual conversion which outlines the process casual employees may follow to convert their employment to full or part-time.

Whilst wording in each Modern Awards may differ, the basis for converting from casual to full or part-time employment remains the same:

The Casual employee must have

  • been employed for a period of 12 months;
  • worked a pattern of hours on an ongoing basis of the 12-month period;
  • a pattern of hours expected to continue into the future with no significant changes; and
  • requested conversion to full-time or part-time employment in writing.

While the introduction of casual conversion clauses in all Modern Awards will impact every organisation that currently employs or is considering hiring casual employee/s, specific industries such as retail or hospitality, who typically have higher proportion of casual employees will be most affected.

What action must you take?

As an employer you must:

  1. Provide all casual employees with a copy of the relevant clause from the applicable Award within the first twelve months of commencing employment.
  2. Recognise that you cannot terminate and re-engage an employee to avoid their conversion request, nor can you simply refer the request either.

You may however, refuse the request on reasonable grounds if the conversion would result in significant adjustment to the employee’s current hours of work, or if it is reasonably foreseeable that the employee’s current position will cease to exist within the next 12 months.

Now, more than ever, organisations who hire casual employees will need to consider the implications upon their business operations and implement sound workforce planning to determine irregular and ongoing staffing requirements.

In September Prime Minister Scott Morrison flagged the Australian Government will make it a priority to encourage migrants to move to smaller capital centres – including Perth – and into regional and rural Australia.

For employers, the new year presents opportunities to leverage changes in legislation and ensure compliance around sponsored visas and recruitment of people from overseas.

The Australian Government has made significant changes to a range of visas including the Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa (previously known as the 457 visa) and has introduced high thresholds for employer sponsored permanent visas, such as the employer nomination scheme – sub class 186.

A Global Talent Scheme has also been introduced as a 12-month trial, allowing businesses operating within the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industry to identify and attract top talent with unique skills to build local capability and innovation.

The purpose behind these changes is largely driven by economic policy – to ensure skilled migrants meet the needs of Australian businesses without affecting or displacing Australian workers.

While accredited Migration Agents specialise in employer-sponsored visas, it is important to remain aware of changes and what this means for your business. This is where your HR team can add value.

International “People” Investments

Investing in migrant workers can be beneficial and/crucial in industries with very specific skillsets and unique roles – but if not executed correctly international recruitment can be a time consuming and expensive exercise. Here are three hot tips for ensuring a positive return on your investment:

1)     Think beyond today – Where will you be six months or one year from now?

As with any recruitment process, have a clear understanding of your expectations from the outset. Take time to understand the business needs now, and the future direction. Your HR expert will assist your business navigate through both the visa requirements and best-practice recruitment process by taking a holistic view of how international recruitment will give your company a competitive edge and fill skills gap/s.

2)     Research – Identify and understand your target market

Like any investment, it is important to undertake research beforehand to ensure you engage the best person for the position. Understanding the overseas target market is critical in order to enable an effective recruitment and selection process. What is attractive to someone based in North America may be quite different to someone in South-East Asia.  Adjust your recruitment ‘pitch’ to attract the right candidates.

3)     Technology – connecting with your candidates

Technology is integral in the recruitment of international employees and being innovative with the use of technology will assist in ensuring the person you are interviewing is in fact the best person for the job. Consider your existing recruitment and selection process and ensure you are taking advantage of available technology to review samples of work or conduct face to face interviews.

Time and costs involved

The Department of Immigration increased visa application fees to from 1 July 2018 and there are also other associated costs involved in recruitment including travel and training levies.

It is also important to remember international recruitment is a longer and more involved process. You may have identified the perfect person to fit the role and your current and future needs AND be willing to invest in sponsorship, BUT there are no guarantees.

Assuming your business is already an accredited employer sponsor, processing times for visas vary significantly, 35 days for TSSand up to 14 months for ENS from the time of submitting an application. Consult your HR team for they will be able to help you plan and set a predicted time frame from start to finish and identify key milestones along the way.

Contact WCA – People & Culture Solutions if you require any assistance with your Culture, Human Resources and/or Industrial Relations requirements on (08) 9383 3293 or admin@wcasolutions.com

By Mindy Lee (first published in Business News, February 2019)

Mindy

It’s the three words that all companies hear, yet most find hard to actively respond to: Corporate Social Responsibility.

So, what actually is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and how can you, as a manager and leader, implement initiatives that support the CSR motion within your company?

A quick Google search can easily tell you the dictionary definition of Corporate Social Responsibility; “when corporations have a degree of responsibility not only for the economic consequences of their activities, but also for the social and environmental implications”. However, when you think about it more closely it is so much more than that; it’s a culture embedded in your business.

Organisations such as Perth-based commercial fishing company, Austral Fisheries, have gone to great lengths in their commitment to CSR, becoming the first carbon neutral seafood business in the world – offsetting an estimated 27,422 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. Austral Fisheries Chief Executive Officer, David Carter, explained that the company identified the need to reduce and offset its’ carbon emissions to ensure the health of our oceans, which is also fundamental to their business. Complementing their decision to offset carbon dioxide emissions Austral Fisheries had previously achieved and continues to uphold, sustainable and well-managed certification for their four major Australian fisheries including Mackerel Icefish, Patagonian Toothfish and Prawns.

Austral Fisheries provides an inspiring example of how a large well managed organisation can introduce and enact CSR initiatives, without committing significant financial and/ or other resources.

Taking an environmental stance might arguably be one of the easiest (and most cost effective ways) to increase your Corporate Social Responsibility, with easy to implement and generally low cost initiatives available. Below are just a few simple environmentally conscious ideas to get your Company’s CSR inspiration flowing!

  1. Reduce Single Use Coffee Cups

On average, 1 billion single use coffee cups are used in Australia every year, which cannot be recycled – that’s over 50,000 cups being used every 30 minutes.

If your employees have a favourite local coffee shop, consider providing each of your employees with a reusable cup and approach the coffee shop to ask if discounts are provided for a reusable cup.

  1. Encourage Public Transport

Cars and light vehicles generate around 10 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions with driving just 15km in your round trip to work each day generating around one tonne of greenhouse gases per year. Catching public transport each day wouldn’t only see a reduction in the total emissions being generated, but it would also save each employee approximately $5500 a year on everyday travel expenses. Consider providing your employees with public transport passes.

  1. Minimising Printing

On average, it takes one tree to create 4000 pages of paper, as we know this contributes to a decrease in the amount of oxygen in the ecosystem, and an increase in greenhouse gases from the manufacturing and transportation needed to turn the tree into the ream of paper sitting next to your printer. So don’t print that document when there are further changes to be made and check in with clients if they would like a printed version of the report – they may find it easier to file an electronic version.

…and for the larger end of town

  1. Become carbon neutral certified

Gaining certification for becoming carbon neutral will see you join 46 other like-minded, Australian owned, organisations and help to increase your CSR presence, all while demonstrating a commitment to the environment and helping to make tomorrow greener.

  1. Utilise solar power

Utilising solar power won’t just help establish a green reputation for your company; it will help you save on overheads and has the potential to generate income for the business if your energy consumption is less than that used in your production.

As a final note… The benefits of your environmental CSR initiatives are unlikely to be seen immediately, however, from little things big things grow. Making a start, no matter how big or small will not only see you commence your CSR impact but will also see flow on benefits such as improving your company reputation, a positive impact upon employee attraction and retention, and potentially a reduction in overhead costs. So really a win-win-win result.

WCA – People & Culture Solutions is proud to support Austral Fisheries.

Contact WCA – People & Culture Solutions if you require any assistance with your Culture, Human Resources and/or Industrial Relations requirements on (08) 9383 3293 or admin@wcasolutions.com